Saturday, October 08, 2005

A Look Back Before the Look Ahead

With the October rain falling on the North Coast, it presents a good opportunity to look at that main cog of the off-season – Free Agency. To look at Free Agency, I thought it might be best to take a look back at the past off-season to gauge Shapiro’s success and see if it lends any clues as to the direction of the team entering the 2006 season. Here’s a comparative look at the FA’s that Shapiro considered (or the player the Indians ultimately used in certain spots, namely OF – Grady/Blake instead of Gonzalez – and SS):

Millwood 9-11 2.86 1.22 .248
Clement 13-6 4.57 1.36 .260
Lieber 17-13 4.20 1.21 .263

Again, the list shows that Shapiro had the right FA pitchers targeted in the off-season, and essentially hit the jackpot by giving Millwood a one-year, incentive-laden deal. Clement’s season took a nosedive after getting hit in the head by a line drive, while Lieber proved to be a steady presence in the Phillies rotation all year long.

I would expect Shapiro’s targets (in case Millwood moves on, of course) would be similar to a Clement or Lieber, in that they would be expected to play a large role in the stabilizaition of the pitching staff for 2006 and beyond. The FA starting pitching crop is thin, but we’ll look at that in a future post.

Wickman 45 2.47 1.26 .247
Benitez 19 4.50 1.37 .229
Percival 8 5.76 1.20 .207
Hermanson 34 2.04 1.10 .222

There can’t be much debate on the prudence of re-signing Wickman for 2005. Though most people thought that giving Benitez or Percival a long-term deal seemed like a safer bet, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. The fact that San Francisco and Detroit are stuck with their perpetually injured closers, while the Indians maintained the flexibility with a one-year deal with Wickman (plus getting the best results) is hard to argue against. I threw Hermanson in here because his name was bandied about as insurance for Wickman. It turns out that Howry was more than adequate in that role.

Where Shapiro goes in this spot for 2006 becomes a set of dominoes, set to fall once it’s determined whether Wickman will return. After that determination, the Indians will go through a check-list to fill that back end of the bullpen and hope for a repeat of 2005.

Sizemore .289 22 81 .832
Blake .241 23 58 .746
Alou .321 19 63 .918
Burnitz .258 24 87 .757

I wasn’t sure whether to include Grady or Casey in this comparison, since Grady was called up initially when Gonzo got hurt in Spring Training, but would have been called up once the deficiencies of Casey Blake reared their ugly head. There’s no question that Sizemore is the best player on this list (at 23, no less). In fact, Tom Verducci ranked Sizemore 6th in his MVP race in the latest issue of SI (Pronk was 3rd).

The RF position will be the most intriguing of the off-season, as I expect Ryan Garko (who is one of 6 Tribe prospects to hit the Arizona Fall League) to be given every opportunity to win the 1B job in Spring Training. Whether that means Bono Broussard is non-tendered or not, I’m not sure.
But back to RF – Blake certainly isn’t the answer, which means that the Indians will target an OF with a big stick to shore up the bottom part of the lineup, either via FA or trade..

Peralta .292 24 78 .886
Omar .271 3 45 .691

Any questions?

So, after looking at the almost universal success of the past off-season, we can only hope that it serves as a harbinger of things to come in this off-season. We all know the decisions to be made and the holes to be filled, so next we’ll take a look at what’s available – first through FA, then through possible trades. I wish I could figure out how to put a table in this blog so the stats aren't so confusing.

Also, I’ll compile the 1st Annual Tabbies (in honor of Pat Tabler) to recognize some of the top performers of the 2005 Indians’ season.

Some new links on the Baseball Sites Section of the sidebar dealing with MLB contracts. The Hardball Dollars link is especially interesting.

Welcome to the 6 months of the year when living in Ohio is like living inside a dirty milk carton – always cloudy.

1 comment:

Baltimoran said...

good work by the brownies today

i'm conceding that we will lose millwood, i would like to see howry, and elarton back at least.

anything is better than what we have at 1st and RF